The Nature Conservancy sold 92,000 acres in the Adirondacks to a timber investor? That move may seem counter-intuitive as a conservation strategy; however, well-managed forests can be beneficial to both people and nature. Think water quality, carbon storage, flood control and wildlife habitat.
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Putting up with swarms of biting insects may not have been in their job description, nevertheless, New York Natural Heritage Program scientists gave their fair share of blood in summer of 2008, sloshing through bogs, bushwhacking to high-elevation spruce-fir thickets, traversing through muck, and other intrepid feats.
Along the way, they documented rare birds (Bicknell’s thrush), endangered plants (sticky false asphodel) and significant natural communities (limestone woodland). The purpose? To evaluate more than 90,000 acres The Nature Conservancy would soon sell to a timber management company.
Knowing where the various habitat niches and species occur on the property, which includes more than 100 parcels, has been helping conservation practitioners and scientists design an effective conservation easement to protect important ecosystems and processes.
It also provides a baseline of current conditions that will enable the Conservancy and its partners to measure changes over time, and contributes new information to a statewide database of plants, animals and natural communities.
The field surveys told us what’s there, assigning a quality, status and conservation rating to each swamp, forest, fen, bog, stream, damselfly, mammal, bird—you name it. But what are the desired conditions for those things in the future? In a nutshell, that was a starting point for designing the conservation easement protecting the vast acreage sold in March of 2009 to ATP Timberland Invest, an investor client of the RMK Timberland Group.
The resulting easement, which stays with the land in perpetuity, permanently removes the threat of development and permits sustainable timber harvesting, prescribing ecologically-sensitive management actions. In practice, that means no commercial timber harvests within 100 feet of water bodies and wetlands, and special management guidelines—to be reviewed and approved by an ecologist every 15 years—around dozens of ecologically significant areas identified in the field surveys.
The sale of the forest timber land was always part of The Nature Conservancy’s protection plan. The key was in finding the right partner, one that could balance its own bottom line with the Conservancy’s commitment to conservation and the community.December 20, 2011